How can we get a sense of value at Christmas? I try to spend wisely

A few weeks ago I went to Tesco for some toothpaste on the way home from work. I ended up putting the Harpers Bazaar Christmas special, a Johanna Basford Christmas colouring book and Mr Kipling’s Christmas cake slices in my basket. That’s what happens to you at this time of year… you lose all your senses amongst the Christmas music, aisles of glitz and dreams of curling up in front of a fire with seasonal reading. I don’t even have a fire and I definitely haven’t read the magazine yet. I have started the colouring to get out of the ironing, though…

Most of us will spend much more in December than we earn. We might have started putting a bit of money away for the last few months in anticipation and many won’t have had that luxury due to the cost of everyday living and will be looking to credit cards and loans to get through Christmas. Regardless of how you plan for it all… chances are you have a growing list of expenditure for the next few weeks with no end in sight.

The big cost is buying gifts. Your children will probably have handed you a list as long as the Argos catalogue by now. Then there are the adults waiting for their new dressing gown. Grandma will need her Oil of Olay too. Before you know it hundreds of pounds add up and you’re not really sure anyone needed any of it anyway. You become certain that the economy runs on bath salts and Thorntons truffles. You also wonder who on Earth pays £200 for a Stocking Filler a la the Sunday supplements.

Then there is the build-up. Pantomime tickets, Christmas night outs, visits to Santa’s Grotto, the Christmas blockbuster showing at the cinema and the new mania for Christmas Eve boxes. At some point you get round to the ‘big Christmas shop’ and the things you live happily without all year round become essentials. Cheese boards. Quality Street. Port. Frozen party food.

If you’re beginning to think I’m a misery then please let me tell you, I am more Cratchit then Scrooge. I really enjoy Christmas. I love the build-up. I like choosing gifts. I like the food and the drinks and the new pyjamas. I spend too much, drink too much and eat too much. Just like almost everyone else. But in the last few years, I have started thinking differently. I think a lot of waste. I think about gifts we buy for the sake of buying gifts. I think about the Christmas night out outfits I buy and never wear again. I think about who is benefitting from all this extra expenditure. Slowly, I am making changes to how and where I spend money and as you do as you get older… appreciate the friends and family I see more than stuff, food and to-do lists.

For most of my adult life, I have had a budget to stick to at Christmas. I have also tried to buy from independent shops and charities where possible. I have not used Amazon for a couple of years. Lately, I am buying from local people selling crafts. I appreciate their work. I feel proud giving a unique gift. I like knowing my money is paying a wage for someone, sustaining a small business and allowing artists to use their talents. I can stick to my budget knowing that it’s money well spent. It does take a bit longer than sitting at home with a laptop but gifts are my love language and I like to seek them out. The lovely thing about living in Dundee is that there are so many opportunities to buy locally made gifts at the dozens of events happening this winter so even if there is only one free weekend between now and Christmas there is something on. For gifts, I stick to the principles that I buy something the recipient would never treat themselves to, or I can see a story involving them and that thing.

As for the season of party wear… I’m not into it. As a follower of fashion that seems a bit unlikely but it’s exactly because I enjoy fashion that I don’t like it. I cannot think of a worse season that winter for party clothes. It’s cold. We are over-indulging. We are pale and lacking in vitamin D. It’s dark and we tend to want to sleep a lot. In the shops, we are faced with sparkles, velvet, strappy things and clothes that have one-hit wonder written all over them. I like fashion that is versatile. Is a good investment. Makes me feel good about myself. Party wear just doesn’t do it. I would rather glitz up what I already have and invest in staples that look good all year round. And don’t even get me started on the sales… stuff we didn’t need the day before we now queue for because it’s half price.

Like much in modern day life, I think we are losing sight of the difference between price and value. It’s not a new phenomenon. It’s a problem we’ve had since Oscar Wilde’s day. We think about how big the parcel is, rather than who benefits from what’s inside. I want the money I spend this year on gifts and experiences to not only delight the recipients but to do some good. In a world where so many go without. In a city where families rely on foodbanks at Christmas. In a community that needs Christmas gift appeals to make sure children wake up with a new toy on Christmas morning. My conscience won’t let me waste anything.


At this point, I want to mention two events that are happening in my workplace in December. The theme of our events is ‘Thrift-mas’. All the fun of Christmas with less of the usual expense. Making do with what you have, supporting the work of others and sticking to a budget are the broad themes.

On 1st December style blogger, The Daydreamer aka Christina Miller is joining us for ‘If you’ve already got it…’. This is an interactive workshop showing you how you can work with what you have in our wardrobe to create a new look by thinking differently.  Tickets here >>>

On 11th December we are having the £10 Pop Up market. Craft markets can often seem expensive. When using precious metals, gemstones, silk and leather to make artisan gifts then this is inevitable and appropriate. We have set the ladies at PopDundee a challenge of curating a market with a difference… The vendors must be selling items priced at £10 or less. We will show you can get small gifts, made locally, for less than £10 and get you feeling festive along the way.

Join us at The Circle, 4-6 Staffa Place, Dundee, DD1 3SX.


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